An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Siesta Key residents pumped over sewage plant demolition

Residents of the Siesta Isles neighborhood have waterfront homes on a quiet part of the Key, away from the busier Siesta Key Village or the public beach.

Residents such as Lorie Tiernay and her husband bought their homes with the idea of spending much of their time outside.

They never imagined the years-long struggle they’d have to endure as the county made plans to decommission the nearby wastewater treatment facility.

Tiernay bought her home in November 2015 and expected the plant to stop functioning by Christmas. But it’s only now, in February, that the plant is almost ready to stop functioning and wastewater will go through a pump station to a mainland treatment plant.

City Manager to address climate change symposium April 17

City Manager Tom Barwin will be a guest speaker during the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium: “Climate in Crisis” on Tuesday, April 17 from 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, 801 N. Tamiami Trail.

With sustainability a top priority for the City Commission, which recently adopted a Climate Adaptation Plan, Mr. Barwin will discuss the City’s forward thinking on its approach to climate change and job growth opportunities in the renewable energy realm.

“As a coastal community, climate change is an especially significant concern for Sarasota,” said City Manager Tom Barwin. “I look forward to discussing the positive economic and jobClimate Change Symposium creating potential renewable energy has for our community and country. For example, approximately 130,000 individuals are part of the clean energy economy in Florida alone. With two featured national speakers offering insights on this far reaching issue of climate change, which will affect generations to come, I anticipate the symposium will be an enlightening, educational and engaging event.”

Cortez Road project causes another major wastewater spill

For the second time in two months, a contractor’s mistake made during a Cortez Road West project has caused another major wastewater spill.

About a half million gallons of raw wastewater leaked for four hours Monday evening after crews with Pospiech cut into a 6-inch main while working on a force main replacement project in the 6900 block of Cortez Road West, just steps away from where a spill happened in December.

Pump trucks were used to recover the spilled wastewater and crews were able to divert the flow to make repairs, but the wastewater flowed to a canal that leads to Palma Sola Bay, according to a report submitted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP to drop controversial water pollution regulations and start over

Florida regulators are withdrawing a set of controversial standards for how much pollution can be dumped into the state’s waterways.

The standards drew strong opposition from environmental groups, local governments and Native American tribes. Now the Department of Environmental Protection says it will start over and work with one of those groups to produce new pollution standards.

"DEP has identified an opportunity to partner with the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes to gather additional data as we move forward to protect Florida’s water," agency spokeswoman Lauren Engel said in an e-mail to the Tampa Bay Times .

She said that with their help, the DEP wants to "update the state’s water quality criteria to ensure the department is relying on the latest science."

Attorneys for the Seminole Tribe did not return a call seeking comment Friday. No one at the Miccosukee Tribe offices answered the phone.

The pollution regulations that are being withdrawn marked the first update to the state’s water quality standards in 24 years. When they were first unveiled in 2016, critics said they would allow polluters to increase the level of toxic chemicals they dump into Florida bays, rivers and lakes. Those most at risk would be children and people who eat a lot of seafood.

The 2016 standards, which were strongly supported by business and manufacturing interests, called for increasing the number of regulated chemicals allowed in drinking water from 54 to 92 chemicals and also raising the allowed limits on more than two dozen known carcinogens.

Conserving wildlife habitat focus of February workshop

Urban development would seem to share little with habitat conservation, but a Florida professor will show in a Sarasota County workshop how pairing the two can help save the state's wildlife.

Dr. Mark Hostetler, a University of Florida wildlife ecology and conservation professor, will highlight actions that developers and decision-makers can take to preserve habitat and wildlife during the Feb. 27 "Conserving Biodiversity and Bird Habitat When Land is Developed" workshop.

  • The event, which also will feature experts from UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County highlighting local programs to aid in this effort, is free to the public.
  • It runs 8:15 a.m. to noon at the Sarasota County Extension office, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota.

  • "Urban environments can be designed and managed to conserve wildlife habitat and to minimize impacts on surrounding landscapes," Hostetler said. "For example, small urban forest fragments and trees in residential areas are important habitat for hundreds of species of bird."

    Balancing growth and conservation is critical in a state whose population swells by more than 1,000 each day, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Sarasota County feeds into that rapid growth, adding 20-plus new residents every day, the data show.

    The Feb. 27 workshop, open to the public, will explore principles and practices to assure neighborhoods and developments conserve biodiversity and natural resources. Attendees will learn actions to take before putting plans to paper, while crews are on-site, and after the last nail has been driven.

    The workshop also will highlight the "Building for Birds" online evaluation tool, which allows users to manipulate the amounts of forest fragments and tree canopy available to determine the best designs for conserving bird habitat.

    Hostetler, who brings more than 20 years of experience in urban wildlife and green development issues, will be joined in the workshop by:

    1. Dr. Katherine Clements, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County ecology and natural resources educator
    2. Dr. Abbey Tyrna, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County water resources agent
    3. Dr. Robert Kluson, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County agriculture and natural resources agent
    4. Sara Kane, UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County sustainability outreach coordinator


    5. Learn more and register at http://bit.ly/sarasotabiodiversity, or for more information call 941-861-9900 or email sarasota@ifas.ufl.edu. Interested participants can register to receive AICP or LEEF credits for a $20 fee.

    New satellite data confirm accelerated sea level rise

    USF marine science professor Gary Mitchum is part of a team using statistical analysis of satellite data to enhance previous studies based on tide gauge data

    TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2018) -- Twenty-five years of satellite data prove climate models are correct in predicting that sea levels will rise at an increasing rate.

    In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that since 1993, ocean waters have moved up the shore by almost 1 millimeter per decade. That’s on top of the 3 millimeter steady annual increase. This acceleration means we’ll gain an additional millimeter per year for each of the coming decades, potentially doubling what would happen to the sea level by 2100 if the rate of increase was constant.

    “The acceleration predicted by the models has now been detected directly from the observations. I think this is a game-changer as far as the climate change discussion goes,” said co-author Gary Mitchum, PhD, associate dean and professor at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. “For example, the Tampa Bay area has been identified as one of 10 most vulnerable areas in the world to sea level rise and the increasing rate of rise is of great concern.”

    Dr. Mitchum is part of a team led by University of Colorado Boulder Professor Steve Nerem, PhD, that used statistical analysis to enhance previous studies based on tide gauge data, which have also suggested acceleration over the last century. However, satellites give a better view of sea level rise, because samples are collected over the open ocean, rather than just along the coastline.

    Experts have long said warming temperatures are heating ocean waters and melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. As it continues, the next generation will experience a far different landscape than it does today.

    Floods are getting worse, and 2,500 chemical sites lie in the water’s path

    Anchored in flood-prone areas in every American state are more than 2,500 sites that handle toxic chemicals, a New York Times analysis of federal floodplain and industrial data shows. About 1,400 are located in areas at highest risk of flooding.

    As flood danger grows — the consequence of a warming climate — the risk is that there will be more toxic spills like the one that struck Baytown, Tex., where Hurricane Harvey swamped a chemicals plant, releasing lye. Or like the ones at a Florida fertilizer plant that leaked phosphoric acid and an Ohio refinery that released benzene.

    Flooding nationwide is likely to worsen because of climate change, an exhaustive scientific report by the federal government warned last year. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency.

    At the same time, rising sea levels combined with more frequent and extensive flooding from coastal storms like hurricanes may increase the risk to chemical facilities near waterways.

    The Times analysis looked at sites listed in the federal Toxic Release Inventory, which covers more than 21,600 facilities across the country that handle large amounts of toxic chemicals harmful to health or the environment.

    Of those sites, more than 1,400 were in locations the Federal Emergency Management Agency considers to have a high risk of flooding. An additional 1,100 sites were in areas of moderate risk. Other industrial complexes lie just outside these defined flood-risk zones, obscuring their vulnerability as flood patterns shift and expand.

    35 manatee deaths in January blamed on cold weather

    Cold waters in January caused the deaths of 35 manatees across Florida, wildlife officials say.

    The animals died due to cold stress syndrome brought on by low water temperatures, the Bradenton Herald reports. The deaths occurred between Jan. 1 and Jan. 26, according to a preliminary report released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

    Officials say there were five times as many manatee deaths last month compared to the same timeframe in 2017, the Associated Press reports. However, it’s still much less than the 151 manatees killed by a cold snap in January 2010.

    Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that water temperatures never climbed above 67.1 degrees at Port Manatee in January, according to the Herald. The average temperature was 57.6 degrees.

    Cold stress syndrome can occur when marine mammals are immersed in water below 68 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time. Manatees begin to experience hypothermia, which causes their organs to fail and their skin to slough off.

    In total, 87 manatees were found dead across the Sunshine State last month, the Herald reports. The deaths are measured in eight categories, ranging from natural to undetermined.

    Wildlife officials told the AP that boat collisions killed 10 of the animals statewide last month.

    Mote announces plan to move HQ to Nathan Benderson Park

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    On Feb. 8, 2018, surrounded by some of southwest Florida’s most influential residents, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium’s President & CEO, Dr. Michael P. Crosby, made the announcement many in the area had been waiting to hear: Mote will build a spectacular new Aquarium on mainland Sarasota County.

    The new Mote Science Education Aquarium will be designed and located strategically to serve a much greater cross-section of residents and visitors in Florida, and enhance ocean literacy opportunities and impacts for all. Mote leaders have had preliminary discussions with appropriate officials from Sarasota County to understand the potential opportunities for use of approximately 5 acres of county-owned land within Nathan Benderson Park, a highly accessible location in a hotspot of community growth adjacent to Interstate 75. The interstate’s intersection with University Parkway hosts an average 60,000 drivers on both sides daily, allowing an expected average of 43 million drivers to view Mote’s new facility each year. With Mote’s Feb. 8 announcement of the overall concept and goals for Mote Science Education Aquarium, Mote is now planning to initiate a formal request for a lease to be approved.

    Powering this major advance is Mote’s new, $130-million capital construction fundraising effort, Oceans for All: Improving Access to Marine Science & Technology. Contingent on progress toward this goal, Mote leaders aim to begin construction in 2019. The fundraising effort started strong on Feb. 8 with the announcement that commitments for over 20 percent of facility’s total cost have already been made.

    Save the date for 2018 Environmental Summit

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    Where: Sudakoff Center, New College of Florida, Sarasota
    When: April 25–27
    What: Connect. Engage. Activate.

    The Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida (SEC) is once again facilitating a community-wide event to bring together area scientists, planners, managers, fishers, farmers, business people, students, elected officials, and the environmentally curious to connect, engage and activate.

    Get ready for a fast-paced, engaging program with expert panel discussions and provocative talks that weave connections between our environmental heritage and a resilient future, between the health of natural habitats and our quality of life. Two full-day sessions at New College of Florida April 26-27 will explore topics such as:

    • Our rich environmental legacy: can we connect it to our future?
    • Are we on our way to restoring fishable, swimable waters?
    • Bringing back oysters, scallops, clams, seagrass, and marsh
    • Uniquely Florida: conversation with the Directors of Florida’s 4 Estuaries of National Significance
    • Science-Outreach-Advocacy-Lobbying: what’s the difference and how do we work together?
    • What’s coming with climate change?
    • Plastic, nutrient, and bacterial pollution: what’s the solution?
    • Explore the urban ecology of Phillippi Creek
    • Celebrate the Wild and Scenic Myakka River
    • Meet the architects of success in local land conservation

    It all kicks off with a Keynote Reception at Mote Marine Laboratory Wednesday evening April 25. Network and find inspiration at our Bayfront Reception Thursday evening April 26. Join the SEC email list for updates as the program develops!

    Learn more about sponsorships at the link below!

    Everglades restoration: Water storage, political will key to success

    Michael Grunwald, a journalist who works as a senior writer for Politico Magazine, gave the keynote speech Friday at the 27th annual Southwest Florida Water Resources Conference at Pelican Preserve in Fort Myers.

    He is the author of “The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise.” He addressed what’s happening with the Everglades more than a decade after his book was published in 2006.

    Grunwald, who spoke for 40 minutes, provided a few quick history lessons and personal anecdotes along the way, painting a picture of how politics has mostly gotten in the way of significant progress.

    First, it’s important to understand the importance of water resources, which he called “the most precious resources that Florida has.”

    “Getting the water right — it’s a really big deal,” he said. “I think the fate of Everglades restoration will tell us a lot about this crazy experimentation of human habitation on Earth.”

    Senate committee approves statewide fracking ban

    A controversial method of extracting natural gas would be banned statewide under a bill approved by a Senate panel Monday.

    But while the Senate is moving forward on a ban on fracking — a process whereby a mixture of water and chemicals is forced deep underground at high pressure to release natural gas — its chances look slim in the House.

    Anti-fracking activists say the possibility of fracking fluids polluting groundwater is high in Florida, where slabs of limestone could make it easier for leaking chemicals from fracking sites to seep upward and pollute the aquifer that South Florida uses for drinking water.

    The bill sponsor, state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, held up a chunk of porous, 125,000-year-old limestone from Miami-Dade County and said, “This is what our state is built on, and this is the reason for this bill.”

    Advocates for fracking disagree.

    “You’re sending a message to the rest of the country that fracking is not good, and I think that’s the wrong message,” said Eric Hamilton, of the Florida Petroleum Council, which lobbies for fossil fuel interests. “It may not be advantageous to use it at this time, but as we find additional reservoirs, it may be a technology we can rely on. And it can be done safely.”

    The bill appears to be dead on arrival in the House.

    Sarasota County to host flood zone workshops

    Sarasota County will host a series of educational flood zone workshops throughout 2018 at several county libraries.

    The workshops are intended to educate residents, lenders and insurance and real estate agents about flood risks, zones, maps, regulations and mandatory insurance purchase requirements. Attendees will also find out why flood zone maps are continuously updated.

    All workshops are from 10:15 a.m. to noon, and no registration is required. Some upcoming workshop dates and locations include:

    • Selby Library, 1331 First St., Sarasota — Feb. 13, May 8
    • Elsie Quirk Library, 100 Dearborn St., Englewood — March 29
    • North Port Library, 13800 Tamiami Trail, North Port — Feb. 20, March 20, April 17
    • Fruitville Library, 100 Coburn Road, Sarasota — Feb. 15, April 4
    • Jacaranda Library, 4143 Woodmere Park Blvd., Venice — Feb. 22, March 15
    • Gulf Gate Library, 7112 Curtiss Ave., Sarasota — March 6

    To see the full list of 2018 workshops or for more information, visit scgov.net/floodprotection or call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

    Demolition to begin at Hudson Bayou lift station

    Demolition work at the site of Lift Station 87 in the Hudson Bayou area is scheduled to begin on Thursday, bringing another sign of progress to the beleaguered sewer project.

    PCL Construction will begin tearing down existing structures on the site, and the process is expected to take two or three weeks. Once the process is complete, site work for the new station will begin.

    The new station will replace an older one that was failing and will route one-third of the city of Sarasota’s wastewater beneath Hudson Bayou.

    According to the project’s website, local residents can expect to see trucks and heavy equipment arriving and departing the site at the U.S. 41 entrance. This activity is scheduled to take place each weekday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

    “All demolition activities will comply with the city’s noise ordinance and measures will be taken to control dust,” the website says. “Vibration sensors have also been installed and will continuously be monitored to further minimize community impacts.”

    Sarasota County works on relief for Manasota Key beachfront homes

    SARASOTA — Homeowners along the coastal beach setback line who need emergency sandbags for protection from erosion may soon be able to apply for a variance that could last for three years, instead of only one.

    That’s the direction the Sarasota County Commission moved Tuesday, as the board continued a public hearing on amending the county Coastal Setback Code until April 10.

    Ostensibly the hearing was to discuss a staff proposal to allow a three-year permit period with a reduced cost but still require homeowners to annually justify the need for sandbags to protect their homes.

    Instead of paying three annual fees of $365, homeowners would pay that sum just once, then a fee of only $50 for the second and third years.

    Instead, commissioners directed staff to rework the code so that the initial variance would be for up to three years — subject to annual inspection and possible removal, if the sandbag placement is harming the coastal integrity of neighboring properties or impeding public access to the beach or nesting activities of sea turtles.

    The re-examination of the ordinance was prompted last April, during discussion of emergency variances that were granted for several beachfront homeowners on Manasota Key, following the 2016 storm season.

    Peace River water authority eyes long-term improvement plans

    Check the Water Atlas calendar of events for upcoming PRMRWA meetings

    CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Although the regional water supply system currently offers capacity that far exceeds demand, an aggressive schedule of water infrastructure projects will be unveiled at the next Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority board meeting.

    In the last year, the water authority delivered an average of 25.5 million gallons of water every day to an ever-growing population of more than 900,000 people in its four-county service area, or about 73 percent of capacity. That leaves about 9.2 mgd remaining for future water-use demands.

    The water authority’s biggest customer, Charlotte County, is allocated 16.1 million gallons per day from the Peace River Water Treatment Facility, which supplies the vast majority of water to the county. However, Charlotte is projected to use only 14.0 mgd in 2018.

    Figuring in population growth estimates and water-use trends, the county will not require additional water supply until 2031. Despite this envious situation, water authority members will discuss a draft five-year capital improvements program and 20-year capital needs assessment at their Feb. 2 meeting.

    "The water authority has a very ambitious 20-year capital plan," said Travis Mortimer, capital projects manager for Charlotte County.

    Current planning projections for the five-year capital improvements program, from fiscal year 2019 to FY 2023, call for $94.8 million in total projects, with $50.1 million expected to be paid from grant money. Of this total, Charlotte County is targeted to receive $60 million in infrastructure improvements.

    Riverview High School students explore careers in aquaculture

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    Twenty-four students from Riverview High School had the chance to experience what a career in marine aquaculture might be like at Mote Aquaculture Research Park (MAP) last Thursday (Jan. 25). The students arrived at the 200-acre Park with a limited understanding but plenty of curiosity about aquaculture (farming aquatic organisms such as fish) and left with the knowledge that this field of study includes, biology, chemistry, engineering and much more.

    “Many students dream of working with marine megafauna like dolphins and manatees without realizing how vast the world of marine science really is,” said Brad Tanner, Senior School Programs Coordinator at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. “These experiences give students the chance to work side-by-side with scientists in the field. It is Mote’s goal to instill a greater understanding of what this field has to offer as well as the diversity of career paths available.”

    Split into three workstations and groups, students had the opportunity to learn about the daily tasks involved in aquaculture from Mote staff and volunteers. Students learned about the life cycles of rotifers (microscopic organisms used to feed larval fish) while utilizing lab equipment, discussed sustainability and economics as they weighed juvenile fish for health assessments, and harvested sea vegetables for the Sarasota Farmer’s Market as a way to discover how plants and engineering also play a part in marine aquaculture — in this case, in greenhouses engineered to use fish waste as plant fertilizer.

    Southwest Florida citizens showing leadership in climate change issues

    SARASOTA – With President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Congress still pondering legislation but not acting and Florida Gov. Rick Scott banning state environmental regulators from even using terms such as "global warming," concerned citizens say they cannot wait for leadership on the climate change issue to come from the top. In their recent book "Climate of Hope," former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope, former national executive director of the Sierra Club, say that leadership has to rise from the grassroots.

    "The good news is that's already starting to happen, as voters all over the country see storms growing stronger and more frequent, as they see floods where they never had them before, and as they suffer through droughts that are worse than they've ever experienced," Bloomberg writes. "Americans are a lot smarter than the elected officials they send to Washington. Our country's citizens want to avoid these disasters — and they know they can do something about it."

    Southwest Florida is a prime example of a community in which citizens are not only expressing concerns about climate change and its possible impacts, such as sea level rise, they are uniting and acting on those concerns.

    Supreme Court rules that challenges to WOTUS should be filed in district courts

    The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that challenges to the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” rule must be filed in federal district courts, as opposed to the federal appeals courts.

    The ruling marked the first opinion of the month. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the opinion, which was filled with water puns, though she was not on the bench Monday.

    The court heard oral arguments in the case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, in October.

    The Supreme Court met to weigh in on which courts had jurisdiction for lawsuits challenging WOTUS, not to decide the merits of the 2015 water rule, which vastly expanded the definition of a waterway that can be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

    The definition of a waterway under the rule includes everything from a simple drainage ditch to streams and rivers. That means many more areas would fall under EPA's enforcement jurisdiction and control, from farmers to individual homeowners to oil companies, critics of the rule say.

    The National Association of Manufacturers filed a lawsuit challenging WOTUS in federal district courts after agencies promulgated the rule, and the cases were then consolidated and transferred to the U.S. District Court for the 6th Circuit.

    The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 ruled that appeals courts have jurisdiction over challenges to the water rule.

    Research finds discrepancies between satellite, global model estimates of land water storage

    Research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that calculations of water storage in many river basins from commonly used global computer models differ markedly from independent storage estimates from GRACE satellites.

    The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 22, raise questions about global models that have been used in recent years to help assess water resources and potentially influence management decisions.

    The study used measurements from GRACE satellites from 2002 to 2014 to determine water storage changes in 186 river basins around the world and compared the results with simulations made by seven commonly used models.

    The GRACE satellites, operated by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, measure changes in the force of gravity across the Earth, a value influenced by changes in water storage in an area. The computer models used by government agencies and universities were developed to assess historical and/or scenario-based fluxes in the hydrological cycle, such as stream flow, evapotranspiration and storage changes, including soil moisture and groundwater.

    Longboat to install new valves to mitigate north end tidal flooding

    But as a resident of The Village on Longboat Key’s north end for 45 years, it’s not that easy. He and his neighbors sometimes have to park at the edge of their neighborhood just to keep their cars safe from gulf water that fills the streets at least a few times a year.

    He said he’s seen children riding kayaks in the roads and a tiki mask floating on his deck. Big trucks sometimes drive through the water and cause a wake that can be damaging to homes.

    “Flooding is part of living in the village area,” Christensen said. “It’s not something like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m living in the village, and now it’s flooding.’"

    And this flooding can happen on days without rain. Unusually high gulf levels flood the low-lying streets with water through stormwater pipes, bubbling out of drains meant to divert rainwater into Sarasota Bay.

    These higher-than-usual “spring tides” — which have nothing to do with the season — occur most often during a full or new moon.